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Buckner Family Dental Blog


Why do the gums behind my molars hurt?

If the gums behind your molars are causing you a lot of pain, there’s a possibility you may have developed a condition known as pericoronitis. This is a fairly common dental issue that causes the gum tissue behind your molars to become infected and swollen, which can be quite painful. It most commonly occurs around the wisdom teeth as they erupt.

What are the causes of pericoronitis?

Pericoronitis usually develops when the wisdom teeth only partially erupt through the gums. This gives harmful bacteria and opening to make their way in around the tooth, causing an infection to develop. In many cases, a piece of food or a buildup of plaque can get caught underneath the small flap of the gum around the tooth. Eventually the gum will become irritated, leading to pericoronitis. If the condition become severe, the swelling may spread into the jaw, neck, and cheeks.

Symptoms of pericoronitis

Pericoronitis can vary in intensity and include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling in the gums
  • Infection
  • A bad or metallic taste in the mouth
  • Problems opening and closing the mouth
  • Swelling in the neck’s lymph nodes

If you experience these symptoms, let our dentist know right away. If pericoronitis is suspected, your dentist will check your wisdom teeth to ensure they are coming in properly. A dental x-ray may be taken in order to make your wisdom teeth are aligned properly.

Treatment for pericoronitis

If the pain and swelling of your pericoronitis hasn’t spread beyond the tooth, it may be treated by rising your mouth a few times a day with warm salt water. Ensure that the gum flap hasn’t trapped any food particles underneath it. However, if the area around the tooth, as well as your cheek and jaw become swollen or very painful, you need to see your dentist as soon as possible. The infection can be treated with antibiotics, and a prescription pain reliever may be recommended as well. Until you receive these prescriptions, try controlling your pain with over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

If the inflammation is very severe, or if your pericoronitis is a recurring condition, you may need oral surgery in order to remove the wisdom tooth or gum flap. Usually removing the wisdom tooth can provide you with nearly immediate relief, as well as preventing future dental issues that will require further treatment.


Any pain in your tooth should not be ignored, no matter the cause. When tooth pain occurs only during meal times and then fades, it can be tempting to ignore the experience. However, any toothache can be a sign that a more serious dental issue exists, and should be treated in our office right away.

What causes tooth pain during meals?

There are a number of dental issues that can cause you to say “my teeth hurt when I eat.” One of the main causes is a condition known as dentin hypersensitivity. This causes teeth to become very sensitive to certain tastes, most commonly sweets. In addition, teeth may also become extremely sensitive to hot and cold temperatures. The tooth pain usually occurs suddenly and is quite severe, but only lasts for a short period of time.

Another cause of tooth pain when you eat is tooth decay. When a cavity forms, it exposes the dentin and tooth nerve, which can become irritated when food particles enter the cavity. This causes sharp, aching pain that may take some time to fade. Once the debris is brushed away, the sensation in the tooth often returns to normal.

Finally, a tooth that has previously had a root canal may become sensitive to hot and cold foods. This pain feels very similar to dentin hypersensitivity, and usually occurs when you bite down. This occurs as the area inside your tooth heals following the root canal, and should only last for a few weeks. If the sensitivity persists beyond this point, it is important that you contact Dr. Osorio.

How is this type of tooth pain treated?

If you are experiencing tooth pain when you eat, the treatment will depend largely upon the cause of your pain. In the case of dentin hypersensitivity, you may be advised to change your brushing technique. Many adults mistakenly use a hard-bristled toothbrush, which can damage the teeth, causing them to be sensitive.

In some cases, poor diet can also cause dentin hypersensitivity. It is important to make sure that you are receiving proper nutrition, particularly correct amounts of Vitamin C. Failing to do so can cause your teeth to become very sensitive. If Dr. Osorio believes that poor nutrition is the cause of your sensitivity, he may advise that you begin taking a vitamin supplement to help protect your dental health.

If you experience tooth sensitivity following a root canal or other dental appointment, you may need to use a special toothpaste that is designed to eliminate this symptom for a time. Contact our office as soon as the pain begins to occur so that Dr. Osorio can recommend the product that would be best for your situation. In some cases, and antibiotic or anti-inflammatory medication may also be recommended.

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